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Thread: Not-So-Instant Karma

  1. #1
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Not-So-Instant Karma

    I have a question about the concept of karma. I read this yoga magazine with a Q&A column. Someone wrote in about how her yoga mat was stolen at the place where she practices yoga. She was very upset about it and was asking about how to get over her anger and distrust in the other students, etc. The columnist wrote back that instead of thinking of herself as an injured party, she should consider the possibility that she did something in a previous life to merit this, i.e. this is karmic payback.

    Okay. I know we're just talking about a stolen yoga mat here, but is this really how karma works? I mean, what if this woman had been the victim of a serious crime? Is it appropriate to say, well, this happened because of what you may have done in a previous life?

    Any insight would be appreciated.

    Gassho

    Jennifer

  2. #2

    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    I think this is a very narrow conception of Karma. Karma is not a retributive force, it is not like sin and punishment carried with us throughout the cycle of existing.

    Karma is not something that exists as it is most often characterized in everyday talk. Karma is about the seeds we plant each time we undertake a volitional action. Each time we decide to do something, we plant a karmic seed, and all decisions we make thereafter will be a partial result of the seeds that we have already planted. Certain seeds will get tended more, and our dispositions will be stronger to act certain ways in certain instances.

    That being said, Karma only carries over "between lives" inasmuch as cause and effect are everpresent between all lives, and the decisions we make which plant Karmic seeds for ourselves often have many influences outside of ourselves.

    Another issue is that we're conceiving of reincarnation a very particular way in this scenario as well. Is reincarnation a simple matter of a soul going from one body to the next? Many Buddhists are going to say no, because there is no soul, and the transmission of my consciousness in this life to my consciousness in the next life is an incredibly complex story that is not a one-to-one, simple transfer.

  3. #3

    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    Hello Jennifer and Quixulous!

    my very limited appreciation of karma (can't even begin to say I 'understand' it) is that it isn't so much an explanation 'why me?' or 'why do bad things happen to good people?' as much as it is These are your Present Circumstances, What are you going to Do NOW? It is the What and the Do, the You and the Now that mix up that fresh batch of Karma and Karma is baked fresh daily, folks. I've got a fresh batch of karma in the oven right now, even as we speak! (or type).
    Maybe it helps some people to accept the present situation they are in by assuming full responsibility for it through a past deed of their own, but I think it is possible to assume full responsibility for my actions now in the present situation.
    If (for example) in my frustration I yell at the receptionist at the yoga studio, or at the instructor, or at the whole class about 'people who steal things'
    If I take someone else's mat to replace my stolen one, If I put up a sign that describes the missing mat with my contact information on it...
    each response/approach has different ripple effects. To assume responsibility for the action I take, is to consider that my actions will and do effect others in ways I can't control both positive and negative. I have no control over those things. I only can control my action, what I do, and a lot of the time I can barely do that!

    As far as the columnist and the magazine...I wouldn't waste my money on another issue. Is it worth a letter to the editor to counter what the columnist said and give to others a better definition of 'karma'? Maybe. (you see, by the columnists own action (her response) she sets in motion different reactions--people who drop their subscription, people who write her letters, people who walk away with a limited definition of 'karma'....
    One time I visualized karma as a big pinball machine. The ball in motion, my actions the levers and everything else out of my hands...and everyone else with their levers too...
    this was probably the noisiest visualization I've ever had!

  4. #4

    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    Hello.

    If I may.

    Perhaps the writer of the article isn't answering from a buddhist point of view. Karma is a term used in all (I believe) Indian religions. In theistic religions in India the idea of how karma-vipaka works is close to that description. If you do something wrong, then God, in your next life, will punish you in a way he see fit, and which is in accord to the wrongdoing committed. In those instances, it's perfectly legit to blame misfortunes in this life on actions in earlier lives.

    In buddhism however, no, karma-vipaka doesn't work that way at all, as the previous posters have pointed out.

    Just a thought.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    Wow, thanks for these perspectives! I figured the Zen outlook would differ; I was just curious as to how.

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    As far as the columnist and the magazine...I wouldn't waste my money on another issue. Is it worth a letter to the editor to counter what the columnist said and give to others a better definition of 'karma'? Maybe. (you see, by the columnists own action (her response) she sets in motion different reactions--people who drop their subscription, people who write her letters, people who walk away with a limited definition of 'karma'....
    Actually I did drop that subscription a while ago, but it was more because they kept talking about "loving yourself with all your imperfections" and patting themselves on the back for using middle-aged models (once) but then running sleazy full-page ads for cellulite creams and other snake oils. :roll:

  6. #6

  7. #7

    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    My shot at this

    There are many perspective on this whole this whole Karma deal. So here are some ideas:
    one interesting idea is that Karma is not something that comes back at us, but that we are the complete manifestation of our Karma at all times. Everything we do has consequences, both good and bad, but those actions are also due to previous consequences which are in turn due to our Karma. We are our Karma.

    Karma is also not individual, but also communal. We all reap a certain Karma depending on where we live. So it may not be even our Karma why something bad might happen to us, but it could be that we are collecting the communal Karma from where we happen to live.

    But, Karma can also be something to help us deal with the world, and it can be something that can distract us from reality . Being in a situation that we may not like and blaming it on Karma, can be just another way of adding something to a moment that doesn't exist. Here is a moment; perfect just the way it is, complete in every way. where is the room for Karma?

    Just some ideas on a topic that is very deep

    Gassho

    Rafael

  8. #8
    Stephanie
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    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    I've never liked that way of thinking. In my opinion, it's an easy way to shift blame from the actual perpetrators to the victim, thus perpetuating cycles of abuse and greed.

    I understand karma on a basic level and on a mind level. On a basic level it is simple cause and effect. Leave your yoga mat someplace that another person can pick it up, and someone just might pick it up. You can be mad at the universe that people aren't nicer but it's a fact some people will take things that are easily taken. So to avoid having that happen again don't leave your next yoga mat someplace it can be stolen.

    On a mind level, I understand karma as the world we create for ourselves with our thoughts and intentions. This woman took a simple event that had nothing to do with what kind of person she is--thieves don't care about your morality, they care about how easy it is to steal from you--and turned it into an occasion of feeling wronged. This is likely not the first time this woman has thought of herself or life in this way. The more you think about life in a certain way, the more it seems to be that way. She could have interpreted that event in any number of ways. Who steals a yoga mat? She could have laughed about that, or felt sad for someone who enjoyed the practice of yoga enough to want his/her own mat but who would violate the spirit of the practice by snatching someone else's. And yoga mats aren't exactly the most sanitary thing to steal. Or maybe someone accidentally took it, thinking it was theirs.

    This is how I understand the Buddha's teaching of karma. We need to always look at the mind first. The very first words in the Dhammapada are that everything we experience is preceded by mind. If this woman's mind was different, she wouldn't be experiencing "the world in which I, who try so hard to be good, am the victim of theft." She might be experiencing the pure comedy of someone stealing a yoga mat. Instead of tragic world, she could be in comic world.

    I say all this because I have experienced so much myself, of how I create problems and suffering for myself by thoughts alone. Tell yourself a different story, experience a different world.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    Jonathan, thanks for the link! I should have thought to look there. :roll:

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    This is how I understand the Buddha's teaching of karma. We need to always look at the mind first. The very first words in the Dhammapada are that everything we experience is preceded by mind. If this woman's mind was different, she wouldn't be experiencing "the world in which I, who try so hard to be good, am the victim of theft." She might be experiencing the pure comedy of someone stealing a yoga mat. Instead of tragic world, she could be in comic world.
    True that.

    Gassho,

    Jennifer

  10. #10

    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    Wonderful post, Stephanie.

    Tell yourself a different story, experience a different world.
    If I may say...

    Karma... Study it through only sitting

    Karma means action. Everything is it. Thoughts too.

    Take it easy. It is a mess.

    Take it easy...

    Sit. Go. Do. Act. think. Eat.

    Swallow and spit.

    Any space in between?


    gratitude...

    At the end of the day thinking about this bl..... bas..... I am and also accepting that I am wrong ...

    gassho


    Taigu

  11. #11
    Stephanie
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    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    Thanks, Taigu.

    I've been working lately with the karma I create for myself through my thinking. I get upset about what others do or don't do and think about things that happen to me much like that woman did. "What did I do to deserve this? Why can't I have people in my life who..." blah, blah, etc. There is something about thinking like that, that is very addictive. When I drop that thinking, other parts of my life come into focus and I really don't seem so bad off at all.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: Not-So-Instant Karma

    Karma is something that has idfferent meanign to different people. And from some folks is a bit like that. Reward for good actions and punishment for bad and whatever random good and bad as part of one's life lessons with our various incarnations this may bring.

    I think it's kind of dimissive of the person's issue tho.

    _/_

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